Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food for thought: Carbo-loading pre race

Atkins is rolling over in his grave
BREAKING NEWS! You should eat carbs before a marathon.

OK, so I know people generally know this but if you've ever had questions about how much, how often, what types and whether you should incorporate other foods (like protein and fats) this is some good information…

I came across this article at which was written by one of my favs btw… Dimity McDowell and thought it was fascinating. It was absolutely packed with awesome information when it comes to carbo-loading pre-marathon.

I have no full marathon on my calendar at this time (though, I'm in the lottery for the NYC ING marathon) but I am always very confused about what carbo-loading really is. For my first marathon last year, I kinda just ate a little pasta (uh - with cheese and meat) the night before, picked at some bread and had a half bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. No special loading otherwise, no big changes, probably too much protein.

Being that I had tummy troubles (what else is new?) during that race, I walked much of it. The downside was I was disappointed that my time was longer than a NYC to LA flight… The upside, I never hit the wall.

But I've hit the wall in my life - I remember it clearly in a long run or two when training and it sucked.

So properly carbo-loading is super important in helping you not hit that wall.

Which is very interesting because while I know that carb-loading is important I also thought that training and "getting used to the high miles" was the most important factor in wall-prevention. While that is a given, it seems that the carb thing is really, really crucial here. Ok. duh. They do all talk about "glycogen levels" falling and what not… but we can't all be this guy...

Benjamin Rappoport hit the wall at the NYC marathon in 2005 - he was also a smarty pants -- a Harvard MD student so instead of just bitchin' and cryin' about hitting the wall, he decided to research it and study it.
"Proper carbo-loading—or filling your muscles to the brim with glycogen—won't make you faster, but it will allow you to run your best and, if you race smartly, avoid the wall," he says.
The article goes on to say that you should begin your carbo-loading a few days before. You can't properly fill your glycogen levels with one or two meals. It should start 2-3 days before and 85 - 95% of your calories should be carbs! (I really didn't realize that.)

Good carb choices would include pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, bagels, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt and juice. Check out the article for some meal ideas.

Also listed in the article was this handy little calculator. Our smart friend "Benny Rap" - came up with an endurance calculator which will take in account your target race time, age, weight, resting heart rate, etc to come up with a good idea of how much carbohydrate you should aim to have in your system. Maybe I'm becoming a running nerd but I found this compelling stuff.

Anyway - I plugged in my numbers with a marathon aim time of 5:20 and it was pretty cool. It gave me carb guidelines for a "conservative best marathon time," an "aggressive best time" and my "target time."

Now don't freak out, the article says that if you've properly carb-loaded you'll be up 3-4 pounds come race day! (Yeah, that would freak me out - so I'm glad they warned me.)

It's funny because as someone who's always tried to avoid simple carbs (to lose weight) I think properly carb-loading was something I couldn't really grasp. If I ever run another full marathon, however, believe you me I'll be heeding this advice… 3 or 4 pound gain and all!

Do you meticulously carb-load? As in know that you need 2210 kcal's of carbs or do you just wing a bagel the morning of?
What's your favorite way to carb-load?
Have you ever hit the wall?

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